respiratory organ. These catfish will also periodically dash to the water
surface to take a gulp of air before returning to their realm at the
bottom of the tank. All of these air-breathing species developed their
unique adaptations because of oxygen deficiency in their native waters.
Hanging Out on Dry Land
The mudskippers (Periophthalmus and Boleophthalmus spp., among
others) are strange fishes that seem more similar to amphibians,
because in addition to being able to breathe atmospheric oxygen, they
actually walk up onto dry land quite often and spend much of their
This intelligent, personable fish comes from Africa. In its natural
habitat, a mudskipper will leave the water for land at low tide. When
the high tide comes in, the fish will hide in the muddy bottom or
climb a tree to avoid predators or strong waves that could sweep it
away. The fish is very quick and moves equally well in the water, on
muddy bottoms, and on dry land.
A necessary condition for keeping mudskippers in the aquarium is
providing them an opportunity to leave the water; pieces of driftwood
are the best option, as they inhabit mangrove forests with plentiful
wood in the wild. It is important to have very high humidity above
the water surface, because the fish must remain moist wherever they
are. They like to lounge on rocks or branches that jut out of the water,
and sometimes they can be seen sitting in the shallows, with only their
large, mobile eyes above the surface.
Mudskippers can climb and jump fairly well, so the aquarium must
be suitably covered. These amphibious fishes have evolved different
methods of locomotion, depending on their environment, water or
land, using their strongly developed pectoral fins and tails.
They can be quite intelligent, curious, and funny aquarium fish,
observing their surroundings with interest and quickly becoming
accustomed to their owner—at my hobbyist friend’s house, I’ve seen
them climb on their owner’s arm and take food directly from his hand.
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
With their strongly developed pectoral fins and tails, mudskippers are
good at both climbing and jumping, so any aquarium setup for them
should include a well-fitting lid.